Grace Through Humility

7 And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them. 8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them of them that sit at meat with thee. 11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Lk. 14:7-11

It could hardly be supposed that Jesus here  was talking about a mere wedding, or that He was setting out the seating protocol at weddings for people to follow; so what is this all about?

Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of God! Notice that Jesus’s words here are a parable (v.7). Which means it is a teaching; a teaching for the Church. And Jesus’s message here was simple: when you come into the Kingdom of God, take the back-est seat possible. Desire to be the lowest person in God’s Kingdom.

Who do you think Jesus is referring to as “he that bade thee and him”? Who is the “he” here?

That “he” is God. Far from talking about a wedding in the natural, the Lord was talking about the totality of the Christian life. He was referring to the attitude that a Christian believer needs to have in his relationship with God; the attitude that the Church needs to carry in their hearts as children of God. It is this attitude that will cause God to raise us up.

Notice verses 8 and 9.

8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room.

In ministry especially, men are tempted to take “the highest room”. We want to be recognized! But the only person who counts is the “more honourable man”. And, pray, who is the “more honourable man” Jesus is talking of here?

We may not know this man. John the Baptist told the Jews,

“26… there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”

The Jews thought John was the greatest.

This is a wake-up call to preachers. Leave off all those high-sounding titles and desire to become common servants of Christ. Above all, do not despise others, for you never know who is coming after you.

Thank God, John knew.

The “more honourable man”  is the man whom God alone acknowledges. It is not the man who thinks of himself as honorable, or he who advertises himself. Ought that not make us want to become smaller still in our own estimation of ourselves?

Desiring to be a nothing in the Kingdom of God is an attitude of heart. All our proclamations to the contrary, this is one of the hardest things for us to do as children of God. And the reason for this is because the flesh is involved. The heart of man is naturally puffed up.

The flesh works in tandem with the devil, who tried to take the position of God. It is written of the devil in Isaiah 14: 12-15:

“12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”

But God answered Lucifer and said,

“Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”

Thank God for He controls everything. He looks upon the lowly heart, and uplifts them. He causes the poor (in spirit) to become rich.

The Psalmist, David, had a lot to write concerning the poor. In Psalm 69:29, David wrote:

“But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high.”

David was not talking of material lack; the sorrow he refers to here is the sorrow of a man who seeks after the righteousness of God. Here he echoes the attitude of a broken man. That man, the Bible says, God will set “up on high”.

In Psalm 113:7-8 he writes also,

“7 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill, 8 That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.”

That scripture is talking about the “poor” and “needy” in spirit. God will always consider the humble in heart, and He will do something about it. But God will never consider the man who carries pride of any form in his heart.

During the charismatic era, I never really knew what this Psalm meant. Since I was poor materially, I thought it was referring to my natural state. But when we become children of God, God has better things for us. He desires to give the eternal things, which are spiritual, not the the material things, which are temporal. It is true He will also bless us with the material things if He so desires. But that is not where His heart is.

But the central point is that God gives the good things of the Spirit to the humble in heart.

Humility cannot be found in our hearts if we have not crucified the flesh. That is why the entirety of our Christian life revolves around the revelation of the cross in our hearts. The work of the cross is to crucify our flesh, for it is the flesh that desires to

“in the highest room”

But Paul writes in Galatians 5:24:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

So what happens when God raises us “out of the dust” and lifts us “out of the dunghill” in the Spirit? Do we become rich materially, or wise and strong in the flesh?

As we already noted, the answer is no. On the contrary, it simply means that God enriches us with His grace. We become carriers of the grace of God. We become men and women who carry in us the crucified and resurrected life of Christ. It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul wrote,

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

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The Greatest Gift Of All

The greatest gift that God can give you is a humble and contrite heart. A heart that repents easily, with no questions asked. That is the greatest gift that any man can have from the Lord. Notice, of all people, the person that God is willing to dwell with in His heavenly abode.

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Is. 57:15)

In the world, the high and mighty consort with the equally well-heeled. But with God it is different. His dearest friend and closest companion is the man who can preserve a humble and repentant heart. God’s singular friend is the man who is lowly in heart.

In Isaiah 66:1-2 God we read also:

“1 Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? 2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”

Lest we misunderstand God when He says “poor” He is not talking about financial or material lack. He is not talking about that kind of poverty. God has never headed that way. You could be poor as a church mouse all your life, and it wouldn’t bother God in the least. You wouldn’t be the first one. In fact, we read of people in the Bible who were rich, but who joyfully allowed themselves to be robbed of their material riches on account of the gospel (Heb. 10:34).

What troubles God is when our hearts are not right. As long as you are okay in your spirit, God is satisfied with that.

On the contrary, when God says “poor” He is talking about a heart condition. He is talking about the person who does not count himself righteous before Him. He is talking about the person who can say from the bottom of his heart,

“God be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk. 18:13)

Such a man/woman makes God exceedingly glad.

I have heard it said that man’s best friend is the dog. Well, coming from Africa, I don’t know much about that. That idea comes from the white man, but we Africans might have closer friends than dogs.

But it sure is nice to know who God’s best friend is. God’s best friend is the man who can humble himself. It is the man who can say simply, “Forgive me. I have sinned.” He can say that to God, and to his fellow man.

Man’s (and God’s) worst enemy is prideful self. From these scriptures we can see clearly that God hates pride. God cannot sit with a proud man. And by proud I mean someone who cannot humble themselves. Someone who does not carry a repentant heart.

What is a repentant heart?

Probably the best illustration in this regard are the two famous kings of Israel, King Saul and King David. They both sinned before God. David took Uriah’s wife and then had the man killed so he could keep her.

Saul disobeyed God by not killing all the Amalekites as God through Samuel had commanded him to (You can read the entire account in 1 Samuel chapter 15). In retrospect, Saul’s was a far greater sin than the one David committed! It is called the sin of rebellion.

But, anyways, both sinned. Whether big or small sin, both sinned.

The truly interesting thing was that God gave them both a chance to repent. I mean, He could have chosen to kill them both instantly the minute they sinned without even sending someone to confront them. It being the Old Covenant times, such a thing was not unthinkable with God. Anyways, God gave them both a chance to repent.

But Saul would not repent. Instead, he dived straight into self-justification. And He wanted more. He wanted to come out of the whole saga with his pride intact. And so, therefore, after unloading a ton of excuses, he told the Prophet Samuel:

“I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord thy God.” (1 Sam. 15:30)

Can you imagine that? How can the two go together:

“I have sinned: yet honour me now”?

There was absolutely no repentance there. This was what killed Saul. The man would not bend.

These are the kinds of attitudes that God absolutely cannot stand. God cannot stand a prideful and rebellious heart.

Saul was irredeemable, and this was how things ended for him:

“34 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul. 35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Sam. 15:34-35)

As we see with King Saul here, if you are a man or woman with an extremely hard heart, God can reach a point of no return with you and leave you. The condition of our heart is something to constantly watch over. God left Saul and the outcome was very bad for Saul. He reached to the point that he went to consult with the very witches that he had ordered killed when he had a zeal for God!

In contrast to King Saul, let us see King David, who also sinned. After David was informed of his sin by the Prophet Nathan, notice how short the interaction was:

“And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”

It is not that we cannot sin. But it is the repentant heart that God is looking for. God will perfect the man with a repentant heart.

[The meek shall inherit the earth – Mat. 5:5]

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Women In Ministry – Part 4

1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him.

2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,

3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable:

5 A sower went out to sow his seed… Lk. 8:1-5

This is the final part of this series.

It is clear from our key scripture above that women had an important role to play in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ just as the men. But this scripture also sets the standard by which God apportions ministry to both women and men in the church. Today, especially, there is so much confusion concerning the ministry of women. But scripture here sets a precedent by which, if we humble ourselves, we cannot go wrong.

I believe Genesis 2:18 lays the basis of how our Lord Jesus Christ went about conducting His earthly ministry. There we read:

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”

The first man, Adam, was a priest. He ministered to God. And God saw it was not possible for His servant to minister alone. So He made Adam

an help meet for him.”

When we talk of ministry, therefore, we are talking of two ministries: firstly, the five-fold ministry, which is given directly by Jesus for the building of the church; and this, as we saw, He gives to the man for two reasons: first, for He is the head of the man; and, secondly, because the man exercises the authority of God in the church.

But there is another ministry: the ministry of helps. God brought along Eve to help Adam in ministry.

By and large, as we see here and elsewhere, God has put women in the ministry of helping the man. This fits in with God’s original plan for the woman, for the Lord said,
“I will make him an help meet for him.”

That is what we see the women who accompanied Jesus doing. They supported His ministry with their substance. That means they fed even the apostles of Jesus!

In Romans 16:1-4, we read an interesting account.

“1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: 4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.”

Contrary to popular belief, Phebe was not a pastor. The word “servant” indicates she most likely was a deaconess at the church in Cenchrea. But Phebe was no ordinary “servant”. She was a woman of incredible energy and heart who had helped many, including Paul himself. The word “succourer” means “helper”. We do not know exactly how she helped; but she refreshed the brethren.

Verse 3 tells us the interesting case of the husband/wife couple, Priscilla and Aquila. Paul says directly they were his helpers in Christ Jesus. How did they help Paul? For one, they were willing, for the gospel’s sake, to lay down their necks on his behalf.

There are many ways that Godly men and women people can be helpers of the men that God has appointed to carry the gospel.

The interesting thing is that the women (and men)who ministered to the men of God in the early church did not feel inferior. Thus they fulfilled scripture:

“whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” (1 Pet.3:6)

They were not fearful of their “servant” position. The women who ministered to Jesus with their substance knew Jesus had chosen only men to be apostles, yet they did not fear or feel demeaned. On the contrary, they gladly served Jesus… and His men.

They saw far in the Spirit and knew they were co-workers with Christ and the apostles. These were great women in the Spirit. They were greater than if they had tried to promote themselves by strutting across the stage calling themselves apostles, pastors, etc. Had they told Jesus, “We will not support you” (for some were rich) “unless you also acknowledge us in ministry”, they would have lost out in the Spirit.

Oh, how I love these women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, “and many more”. I would never tire mentioning those names.

In the same spirit, this post would amount to nothing if I did not pay tribute to the many modern-day women (and men) who support genuine servants of God with their substance, and in many other different ways. My own ministry, and this blog, are kept ‘alive’ by the financial, material and moral support of Godly women (and some men; but mostly it is the women) including my dear wife, Flo.

This laptop which I have been using to write this blog for the last what, 5 years? – it was given me by my mother, Carol Lanthier. She brought it all the way from Toronto, Canada to Mwanza, Tanzania, where she lovingly handed it to me.

My heart melts within me when I think of these wonderful people. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I fall down and worship God on their behalf. They never ask anything in return. By serving me they know they are serving God. I pray an overflow of God’s blessings upon their lives.

I want to end by thanking everyone. I thank my fellow bloggers and all who read this blog. I thank EVERYONE. Thank you all. I love you all. But, above all, once again, I salute in the Spirit all who support Godly men in ministry. May the Lord bless you all mightily.

[And now, enjoy this beautiful song. And thank God. Make sure to put on stereo!]

Women In Ministry – Part 3

1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him.

2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,

3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.

4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable:

5 A sower went out to sow his seed… Lk. 8:1-5

[We should never lose sight of our key scripture above]

The second foundational scripture I want us to consider is 1 Peter 3-6.

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your husbands… For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”

The Bible says Sarah called Abraham “lord”. Is that even possible? Yes, it is – in the Spirit. Just as it is possible for a spiritual man or woman to turn the other cheek, it is possible for a woman to call her husband “lord” in the Spirit. I never read in the Old Testament that Sarah called Abraham “lord”. But the apostles knew this fact by revelation. How so interesting scripture can become. And how so powerful our spiritual lives become when God’s order has been established!

What scripture means here is that Sarah acknowledged and honored Abraham in the Spirit, not because he was a great man of faith, but simply because he was her husband. She acknowledged and recognized the authority that he had over her in the Spirit, and she honored this authority by calling him “lord”. Sarah, being a woman of the Spirit, understood God’s order in the Spirit; and she chose to honor it.

But it was not just Sarah. The Bible declares:

“… in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands”.

It was not just Sarah. In the old time, every Godly woman honored their husbands. In this scripture, the Bible emphatically establishes the fact that spiritual women of old had no problem with authority.

Man in his raw carnal nature has a problem with authority. Unfortunately, the issue of submission is a big problem in the church also. But the Apostle Peter exhorts us,

“Likewise, ye younger submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” (1 Pet. 5:5)

Here, again, scripture establishes the fact that spiritual people, both men and women, old and young, have no problem submitting their lives.

This is an incredibly powerful spiritual understanding. If every believer could arrive here, God would not have the heartache that He has today. And the church would have so much grace and power and unity in the Spirit.

A true woman of God is not the woman ‘minister”. Rather, it is the woman who can humble herself and submit herself to her husband. That is what the Bible tells us in those words.

” For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands”.

Not by strutting across the stage. Let a woman submit herself to her husband and she becomes the most powerful woman alive.

Finally, let us consider the Apostle Peter’s words in verse 6:

“whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”

Who or what is Peter warning them to beware not to fear?

It is their own selves. Self is the greatest threat to doing the will of God. Here the Apostle Peter is telling Godly women, “If your lives are surrendered to God, you have nothing to fear.”

When our lives are nailed to the cross, we do not fear this Goliath called self. We do not fear the pride that would have us unable to humble ourselves. When our flesh is nailed to the cross we are free! We are free of any kind of fear.

That is why marriages work in the church. Both the husband and the wife having crucified their flesh can see far ahead in the Spirit into God’s grand plan (not their little self-ish whims). They discover they are mere cogs in the great wheel of God’s plan and they rejoice as they serve God in their very different (but complementary) capacities.

The Cross For His Grace

In recent times I have been traveling a lot and, on one of these days, as I was waiting for the bus to fill up at the bus terminal, I found myself in a conversation with God that went as follows.

Me: “Oh, glory! Thank you, Lord, for all this travelling; as you know, I love the adventure of travel and you have been so gracious to me in this regard.”

God: “Oh yeah?”

Me: “Yes, Lord. I am truly grateful. Moreover, these travels keep me far from home where, as you rightly said, a prophet has no honor in his own country.”

God: “Oh! I said that, did I?”

Me: “Yes, Lord. Back at home, there are so many things that make me to stumble in my walk with You, but out here, there is so much peace!”

God: “Oh? Peace. Is that so?”

Me: “Of course, Lord.”

At this point, the Lord left off talking with me. The small bus had filled up and the driver got in behind the wheel.

As soon as the bus began moving, the driver turned on the radio. The volume was automatically set to the highest level possible, and the driver left it right there.

“Hey!” I shouted from the back seat where I was seated. “Please turn down the volume of your radio.”

The driver did not respond. He did not even look back to see who had called out to him. I could not believe it. Had he not heard me? Even above the din, I had shouted loud enough for anyone outside the bus to hear.

I took a closer look at the driver and for the first time I noticed the fellow had a nasty haircut which I took an instant dislike to. I looked at him again and I did not like anything about him.

I called out for the second time.

“Driver”, I shouted loudly again. “Please turn down your radio.”

No response.

I settled uncomfortably back into my seat feeling angry and unsettled both by the the loud music and the cold shoulder the driver had chosen to give me.

After half an hour of high- speed driving (which I also did not like and I was thinking I should warn him about that, too), the bus stopped to drop off some passengers. This being a small bus, the driver was also the conductor. As he came around to take his fare I spoke to him.

“I think you did not hear me”, I said stiffly. “I told you to turn down your radio.”

Without saying a word, the young man stopped taking the fare from the passengers, walked to the front of the bus and turned down the radio’s volume to an acceptable level (as per me).

He then came back and finished taking the fare. I couldn’t help noticing that he had a kind word for each one of the passengers. He even helped an old lady cross the road.

Soon he was done and we drove off. After an hour I arrived at my destination. The driver came round to take my fare. I gave him the money and, as he searched for some loose change in his pockets, I looked into his face. I was looking for an excuse to not like him even more.

But I found nothing there. Instead, I noticed how, despite his cocky haircut, he seemed to be a normal, likable young man.

Right there the Lord spoke to me. He said to me, “You are the problem, not him. If you are looking for something not to like, it is in you, not in him.”

I hadn’t planned on talking to the young man. By the time he gave me the change, though, I realized how much I already liked him. I told him, “Thank you.”

He looked up at me and said, “Thank you, too, sir.”

Then, instead of jumping back into his bus, he just stood there. Suddenly he put his hand back into his trouser pockets and showed me an old one shilling coin.

“You’ve got to be on the lookout for these”, he said, giving me one of the brightest grins I had ever seen. “It appears the same as the new 500 shilling coin. They are using these one-shilling coins to trick people nowadays. Someone tricked me with this one the other day. It is getting to be a common practice.”

“See you around”, he said.

“See you”, I answered absent-mindedly.

As I crossed the road, my eyes were burning with tears. I said to myself, “That boy ought to be preaching the gospel, not me.” He had so much peace. And I was still learning to have God’s peace in me.

The Lord uses any situation to show us how little of His Kingdom we have in us. When we have His Kingdom in short supply in us, that shortage will manifest in us, whether we are at home or far from home.

We cannot run away from the cross. The cross working in us ushers in the Kingdom of God into our hearts. In Colossians 1:24-29, the Apostle Paul writes,

“24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: 25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: 28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.”

Notice the word “sufferings” there. The more Paul denied himself and walked the narrow path of the cross, the more the incredible grace of God manifested in his life.

[The Lord will use any situation to humble us]

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Of Apostles And Prophets – Part 3

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,

4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit Eph. 3:1-5

Finally, let us look at the New Testament. In John 21:18-19, Jesus told Peter,

“18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.”

First, let us consider verse 19.

I used to think Jesus was talking about Peter’s physical death. But scripture here is talking about how Peter would glorify God. It is so banal to think of Jesus telling Peter, “When you grow old, someone will come, bind you and go kill you” even if Jesus wanted to communicate such information to Peter.

But scripture is no ordinary writing. So there must be something more to what Jesus was saying to Peter. I believe He was telling him, “You will glorify God by dying to self. By surrendering your life (and rights) and allowing the crucified Christ to fully live in you. You will glorify God by dying to your own selfish ways and desires.”

Which brings us to Jesus’s words in verse 18:

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

Who is this “another” that Jesus was talking about?

It is Jesus Himself. We are to be prisoners of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Which brings us to the Apostle Paul and the great work that he accomplished in the Spirit.

Remember that Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:10:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Paul says that he labored more than the other apostles. That word, “laboured” as we shall see below, could better be translated “loved”. But Paul does not give himself credit for his accomplishments; on the contrary, he credits the grace of God. In clearer terms, Paul had more grace than the other apostles.

So how did Paul come to have more grace than his counterparts?

It was because he allowed himself to become a bond-slave of Jesus. He allowed Jesus to bind him hand and foot and to lead him where he would not want to go. In Ephesians 6:20 Paul says:

“I am an ambassador in bonds…”

Bonds are not the most comfortable thing for one to be in. Which means that Paul was forced into that situation. Willingly? Yes. And this brings us to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

“7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

The truly ‘abnormal’ thing about the Apostle Paul was that he realized that there was only one way to “labour” for God effectively. And by laboring for God it meant loving the church. Why do you think Paul wanted to be “strong”? It was for the sake of the church. Paul loved and cared for the church with everything that he had in him! And Paul realized He had to surrender self. He had to die to self in order to truly love and serve Christ’s Body, the church.

When Paul realized this, he happily stretched out his hands and allowed the Lord to bind him. He gladly gave his flesh over to the cruel messenger to be buffeted. And thus it came to be that Paul got filled to the brim with the grace of God. Grace to enable him to fulfill his desire to love the church as Christ loved it.

You can see the grace of God in Paul’s life written all over his epistles and in the Book of Acts. He was full of humility, compassion, and love towards God’s people.

And then, again, he was full of Godly wisdom. He could bring the revelation of the cross right up to any level you asked him to (1 Corinthians chapters 1 -4).

But Paul could also compassionately tackle issues which did not have a direct answer from scripture. He would therefore write the Corinthians,

“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me… I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.” (1 Cor. chapter 12)

What humility! And what Godly advice without a “Thus saith the Lord!”

That was the Apostle Paul. Fully surrendered to God, and fully fulfilling the purpose and calling of God upon the church, which was to love it.

That’s who a true apostle is. He is one to whom the cross is revealed, to the end that he may love the church as Christ loves it.

[I do not know many things. But I do know I love the old Hillsong songs]

God’s Bigger Picture

27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:27-28

9 … seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering Col. 3:9-12

I just love these scriptures! There was a time when I thought that rich people would not get to heaven. I had the same thoughts about overly educated people. And even certain tribes! But, with time, the Lord slowly got my unlearned heart to understand that such a notion was never in His sights. God had never contemplated such a thing!

Both the scriptures above refer to people who are saved, the church. Even after we have been saved, our hearts tend to hold onto these very insignificant things. But I love these scriptures because they show that when it comes to the church, God is not bothered by any physical attribute in us. In fact, whatever we may or may not have, or whatever we may or may not be; these are very small things with God. When it comes to material or financial riches, whether one is the richest man in the world, or they are dirt poor; in education, whether one has a doctorate in astrophysics or they had never seen the inside of a classroom; in worldly status, whether one is descended from the royal family, or whether they are a peasant from the dustbowls of Africa – these are very small matters with God. They are nothing.

So what’s the big deal? What really matters with God?

God has a far bigger picture than these trivial things. God’s eyes are on the bigger picture, which is the heart. We could be in any one of the classes listed above, but that is unremarkable with God. The bottom line is that we all have a shot at becoming something in God’s eyes if we would only look inwards and put our hearts in order.

God be praised because we all have a heart. That is our key to pleasing God. We can accept to use that key; or we can throw it away by considering who we are in the natural.

When we accept Christ into our hearts, He comes to transform those very hearts. Contrary to charismatic belief, Jesus does not come to make us rich or poor. Instead, He comes to cut out the old man in us and to create in us a new man who is formed in the image of Jesus Christ. Christ comes to form His character in us, which allows us to bear the fruit of the Spirit.

There is nothing in our natural attributes that can truly prevent this from happening in us! In the Bible, we read of great men and women who allowed God to take center stage in their lives. We read of kings, and noblemen and noblewomen. These all had hearts that pleased God.

We also read of humble people who pleased God.

What’s there to prevent us from doing that which pleases God? How can riches – or poverty –do that? Can education or worldly status – or tht lack of it – really do that?

Absolutely no. The heart in which Christ is Lord is made of far much tougher stuff than that. At whatever point we are in the chain of life, we are capable of answering God’s call and pleasing Him fully.

God wants our hearts to be in His order – His spiritual order. This opportunity is open to every man, woman, youth, and child. God desires to shine His light in each and every one of our hearts. It all depends on how we can ignore the clamor of this world and respond to God’s call.

[God’s bigger picture is all about the heart!]

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